Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Case in Point, Part II or The Lights were on but Nobody was Home...

I hope this will be the last time I have to 'fess up to the ugly results of living underground for numerous decades. Do others do this? Gosh, I hope I'm not the ONLY one who lays claim to having been sidelined by thinking I'm still in the Dress Rehearsal of Life.

Because I am "taking charge" of my life again, this condition has branched out into other areas that I neglected over the years. Really LOOKING at the "this" and the "that" accumulated over nearly 30 years of living in the same house. And feeling "too busy" and too "overwhelmed" to pay attention.

Thus it was that today as I was perusing my impressive collection of cookbooks (and I HAVE cleaned them out before, I swear, getting rid of ones I've never used and never will). And just see what I found. THREE cookbooks about garlic - which are absolutely identical! Yes, I know, one of them has a different cover; it is several years older and contains a few less recipes, but they are all the SAME. Even the names of the recipes are the same, such as "Aunt Fern's Famous Foot Long Garlic Dog" and yes, I just made that up.

And I mean, really! HOW many whole cookbooks does one need for GARLIC?! Can't you just pretty much throw in a clove or two whenever? I mean, the Garlic Festival chefs put garlic in ice cream,for the love of God. (And yeah, I tasted it, and in my opinion it tastes every bit as bad as it sounds But they keep bringing it back).

Yes, I know, here in Morgan Hill we're only 10 miles upstream (or "upwind" better describes it) from the "Garlic Capital of the World," but still. The folks at the Garlic Festival keep publishing this little gem, and there I'll be walking into the bookstore around August something-or-other, and there on the shelf right by the front door is that cookbook, all spiffy and new, and I'll think, "Wow, look at that! A garlic cookbook! I really should have one of those!" And the rest, as they say, is history.

So I've pulled out the two extras and will offer them to my girls and if they aren't biting, I'll save 'em for the upcoming city-wide garage sale that's coming up soon.

NOW! On a more positive note...BEANS!

The above photo was my lunch today, and it may not look to be all that snazzy, but let me tell you, it was DELISH!

It came about because on Dr. Weil's list of anti-inflammatory foods (my culinary "Bible" now that I've become the "Type II Queen"), are beans, beans, beans. You know, the "Musical Fruit," the "more you eat the more you..." ok, you get the idea.

I hadn't really followed up on the bean thing because, let's be frank (and beans) here. Beans are just so not romantic. Nothing lovely about them. But if they'll pull those glucose numbers down, look out. I may soon be rhapsodizing about the humble little bean.

Without anything concrete in mind, last night I soaked a bag of pintos. Those are "refried beans" before they're born. And this morning I drained them and simmered them for an hour on the stove, which was a tad bit too long because they were on the soft side - no 'al dente' here, I'm afraid.

So now I was facing a big pot of semi-mushy beans and it was getting on to lunchtime. "THINK!" I ordered myself. "What would they do on Master Chef???" (Probably hurt themselves as they fell down laughing - BEANS? SERIOUSLY??, but whatever!)

Thus it was as a Master Chef clicking in the back of my recently re-awakened brain that I came up with a salad with beans and "half-baked" salsa over the top.

On the bottom was a nice bed of arugula. AKA "Rocket Lettuce." On the side, I artistically arranged some sliced Persian cucumber. A drizzle of olive oil went over that. Then, the beans, and the half-baked (I was going to say "half-a** salsa," but I didn't want to be rude here) salsa.

I took half a cup or so of pintos, chopped up one of those loverly roadside stand tomatoes with TONS of flavor and minced up VERY FINELY about half a jalapeno for a little heat (also from the Farmer's Market) plus a dash of Kosher salt and fresh thyme from my herb pot... I heated the "half-whatever" salsa and beans in the microwave for about 30 seconds and dumped it atop the greens. (Yes, the "salsa" was missing some key ingredients, but it DID have the beans don't forget!)

And great news! It was YUMMY! And REALLY satisfying. I am gaining a whole new respect for the little pinto. I hope the pinto is one of those 'brain food' wonders. It could mean I'll have a lot less garlic cookbooks taking up space on my shelves :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Case in Point...

I love it when I find "living proof" that my brain and I have been on a collision course veering toward disaster. 

Yesterday I confessed on this blog that I haven't exactly been mentally present lately. If "lately" can be defined as the past, um, 30 years, give or take. Is it getting older that makes us see things in a clearer light? Or was it having the bejabbers scared out of me last month that did it? More likely, a little bit of both.

So the odd photo above is symbolic of a brain that's been MIA for way too long. You know how you misplace your keys once-in-awhile? For me, I misplaced EVERYTHING - all the time! I wish I had back all the years I've spent looking for stuff.

But the scary bit comes when you DON'T EVEN REALIZE YOU'VE LOST SOMETHING! Like the bit of cash above. YIKES! What's up with that??

So today as I was clearing out a box of "stuff" - old receipts and the like, this is what I ran across. MONEY! OMG. Just stuffed in that box along with all these receipts from about three years ago that I was keeping for lord only knows what reason. Of course I never knew this money was missing ...or if I knew, I'd long since forgotten. This gets a little confusing, I know.

Now, it's not like I suddenly found a fortune or anything. It wasn't that I'd cashed my Sweepstakes check and socked the $$ away and forgot about it. Nope, 'fraid not. It was only $44 - although I did have a little burst of hope at first glance that it would be huge, like possibly two or twenty hundreds tucked away in there. So although $44 isn't going to significantly alter my lifestyle, it WAS enough that I should've known I was missing it way back when. Makes me wonder what else I'll unearth around here!

The little mason jar behind the stash of cash? That's from Ashley's baby shower (for Gracie, my first grandchild). Alyssa made them as shower favors for the guests to take home - it was muffin mix for the "muffin in the oven" - get it? I know, it was sooooo cute, and I kept the jar around because it makes me happy to look at it.

So the newly-found moolah is in the jar where I can see it every day as I sit at my computer. That money makes me happy too. Not because I can't wait to spend it but because it's a symbol that I'm finally getting my life back on track where it belongs.

And if I suddenly find that Sweepstakes fortune? Well, you'll find me out on an island somewhere, sipping a pina colada. Made with soy milk, of course. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Green Tea and Soy: The "New Latte"

A month ago today my world, as I knew it, tilted on its axis. In the office of Dr. Jerry Callaway, my physician of 30-plus years, a trap door opened and I clung to the edge, trying to retain my grip.

There have been worse diagnoses. In terms of severity, it could have been MUCH worse. But for a girl who always claimed "perfect health" and enjoyed "good genes" and "healthy stock" as the legacy of my ancestors, I was suddenly smacked upside the head (as my dad used to say) with a calamity of my own doing.

Type II diabetes. Yes, it was my own fault, this thing I'd acquired. Too many years (decades) of putting things off, procrastinating about taking better care of myself. Nobody to blame here but me. While the diagnosis came out of the blue, it was really not so surprising. I'd been feeling "off" for years.

Already diagnosed with high blood pressure in June (another shocker, which wasn't really...not if I'm honest), I'd been given orders by Dr. C. to cut out salt and processed foods. No restaurants. No canned or frozen foods. Too much sodium lurking there. Eat only fresh. And I was. But the follow-up blood work he ordered would uncover something sinister and life threatening.

"The trouble with diabetes," Dr. C. (Jerry to me after all these years) explained, "is that it DOESN'T kill you." I already knew the devastation to the body inherent with this disease so when Jerry went into the ugly probabilities that unchecked diabetes - even Type II - the "less serious" kind (in my mind) would do, I knew what he was about to say. "Amputation." "Blindness." "Kidney failure." "Heart disease." Oh, yeah, he had me at Hello. 

Handing me a couple of sheets of paper containing a food pyramid and added info, he told me this was to be my "Bible" - it was the anti-inflammatory foods pyramid developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. Jerry said some people with diabetes had wonderful success by following this diet. It was time for me to get serious. Or get ready to die.

Thus, the title of this post and the accompanying image. 

A fan for years of "Grande Nonfat Lattes," my Starbucks favorite indulgence (well, yeah, and the blueberry scones), I knew this beverage was going to need a little tweaking. Years ago I purchased a latte machine for home, and it has many miles of lattes that once flowed from its little nozzles. 

The latte machine has a few cobwebs (well, figuratively speaking) gathering on it now because nowhere on the anti-inflammatory foods pyramid is coffee. Or skim milk. What I DID find was green tea. 2-3 cups a day. And soy milk. Ah. Thus the 'new latte' was born - and while the color isn't QUITE as luscious and creamy as a 'real' latte, it ain't half bad!

When my daughters suggested I use my blog to record this newest passage of my life, I thought about it a bit. I didn't want to make it depressing. Or bleak. Or "poor me" in nature. But they are right, because I realized a few days post-doctor's office visit that in its own weird way this may well be the best thing that ever happened to me. A second chance of sorts. To finally get it right. 

So I view July 21 - one day after my "half" birthday (and yes, I still think about those things), as the day of new beginnings. 

And I've made big changes in this month since diagnoses. Working out more. Eating fresh, unprocessed foods. More fish, less meat. Enjoying the bounty of California's good earth with lots of Farmer's Market fresh, organic veggies and fruit. Recording a weight loss of over 10 lbs. so far. And blood pressure and glucose readings trending back toward normal. 

Along with learning more about diabetes, I'm learning more about myself. That I've been "absent" for too many years. Going through the motions without awareness. Marginalizing my life. My brain had become numb to feelings because I insulated any emotions that might intrude by wrapping them up tight in a heavy blanket. But no more. 

I'm also learning I've still "got it." That spark of optimism, rekindling, growing brighter. The knowledge that I'm still capable of turning this crazy ship around. It won't always be easy; nothing worthwhile ever is. But I will do it. I have way too much to live for.